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Telekinesis is a supernatural power that has thrilled audiences across many genres. In sci-fi, Jedi Masters used it to lift starfighters out of the swamp while Sith Lords used it to force-choke unfortunate admirals. In superhero movies, mutants like Jean Grey the Phoenix used it to perform amazing feats. Horror movies like Carrie and psychic movies like Firestarter and Scanners have also given us a taste.
Why should fantasy be any different? Telekinesis adds many possibilities to the game. More than that, it adds power!
Welcome to a Telekinesis 5e Guide.
What is Telekinesis Spell?
Telekinesis is a 5th level transmutation spell that allows the caster to move an object of up to 1,000 lbs. in any direction, including up, at a rate of 30’ feet per turn, within the spell’s range. Here are the spell’s stats as seen in
- Player’s Handbook (PHB) p. 280-281
- Casting time: 1 action
- Range: 60 feet
- Components: V, S
- Duration: Concentration, up to 10 minutes
This ability to move objects up 1,000 lbs. or creatures size Huge or smaller which the caster can see. This does, however, require an ability check between the caster’s spellcasting ability and the opponent’s Strength when used on creatures/people.
The caster can only move 1 object/creature at a time but can switch to another object. The caster also has “fine control” and can manipulate simple tools. I.e. using a key to open a locked door.
Note that this is a concentration spell, so if you want to hold something or someone for any period of time, you have to focus on that task, and suffering damage will require a Constitution check.
How to use Telekinesis Spell?
If your character has access to Telekinesis Spell, it means that your character is of the correct class and level. Usually, your character must be 9th level and above to cast a 5th level spell.
If your character is a wizard, he or she has had time to copy the spell in their spell book and memorize that spell for the day. Sorcerers, however, do not need to prepare their spells in advance. They either know Telekinesis Spell, or they don’t.
- You need a full action within your turn to dedicate entirely to casting the spell. If you’re doing something else, like running or using a weapon, and your character doesn’t have additional actions within their turn, you can’t cast your spell at the same time.
- The components of the spell are VS, so the caster needs to be able to talk and use their hands.
- You need to pick a target within range, in this case, 60 feet.
- You need to clearly inform the DM (dungeon master) that you intend to cast Telekinesis for your action during that turn.
At Higher Levels
Unfortunately, Telekinesis is not one of those damage-dealing spells that you can augment by simply adding spell slots. However, if your DM wants to homebrew the rules, I would recommend using additional spell slots to increase weight/range/movement speed.
Who can use Telekinesis Spell?
Telekinesis is on the spell lists for wizards and sorcerers in the Player’s Handbook (PHB).
There are two magic items in the Dungeon Master’s Guide that enable the wearer to use Telekinesis:
|Ring of Telekinesis||Very Rare||NA||NA||Yes|
|Staff of the Magi||Legendary||4 lbs.||50 (cost 5/use)||Yes|
Ring of Telekinesis
A Ring of Telekinesis allows the wearer to cast the Telekinesis spell at will. However, the user cannot target objects that are being worn or carried.
As depicted in the Dungeon Master’s Guide, p. 192, the ring’s head is in the shape of human hands which grasp the ring’s stone, which is a piece of amber.
This is a really powerful item because the caster can use Telekinesis spell all day long, provided they can maintain concentration, without even needing to recharge the ring.
Staff of the Magi
Telekinesis is only one of the properties of a Staff of the Magi. The different properties of the staff require a different number of charges. Telekinesis requires expending 5 charges from the staff.
A Staff of the Magi has one advantage over a Ring of Telekinesis when using this spell. The user can target objects that are being worn or carried.
Is Telekinesis Spell good?
Yes. There may be better damage dealers like Fireball out there, but telekinesis is good to have as a utility spell. Spellcasting isn’t always about combat and Dungeons & Dragons isn’t always about killing monsters. It’s also about solving problems and some of those problems, especially at higher play, can only be solved if you have the right tool.
Telekinesis and other utility spells are vital as problem-solving tools. The higher your level of play, the more sophisticated your party’s arsenal of problem-solving tools needs to be.
Creative and Useful Ways to Use Telekinesis in 5e D&D
As the title promises, here are your sixteen applications. By utility application, I mean problem-solving that doesn’t involve fighting, including but not limited to the following:
- disarming traps
- escaping traps
- picking locks
- figuring out puzzles, riddles, and passwords
- finding secret doors, gateways, and treasures
1: Magic Carpet, aka Morgran’s Flying Battle Canoe (utility/combat)
Can I fly/levitate with telekinesis?
Yes. Rules as written (RAW), there is no reason why the thing you lift can’t be yourself. Furthermore, as long as you stay within 60 feet of yourself, which most of us generally do at all times, you will not exceed the spell’s range as long as the object is yourself.
Since the spell’s duration is 10 minutes, you can fly straight up at a speed of 30 feet per turn, 300 feet per minute, and 3000 feet total over the course of 10 minutes.
Of course, Telekinesis is a concentration spell, so you might want to have a Feather Fall spell ready as a backup in case something happens during your flight.
If I can use Telekinesis to fly, can I carry heavy cargo while flying with Telekinesis?
This requires some Telekinesis Math.
You will need some type of platform. You don’t want to literally use a carpet because a carpet is not rigid and you or your friends could fall over the side. The platform has to be secure enough to hold its passenger and cargo, but light enough so as not to deduct too much from your 1,000 lbs. weight limit.
I think a canoe would be best, as light as 50-100 lbs., but a rowboat, couch, bed, or even a large bathtub could also work.
If you make your platform the object of your Telekinesis Spell and sit or stand on your platform, you will always stay within range (60 feet) of your object and can move you and that platform wherever you wish for the duration of the spell.
Your weight + equipment you’re carrying + platform = current total weight
1000 lbs. – current total weight = cargo/passenger weight limit
The equation simply means that when you add up the weight of your character and their equipment with the weight of the platform, you must deduct that from the 1,000 lbs. weight limit.
The remainder is the cargo/passenger weight limit available to add additional party members, equipment, etc. For example:
Morgran the dwarven wizard has prepared for a naval battle in advance and one of his party members is actually commanding a small fleet of ships. He has recently purchased a light canoe that weighs 50 lbs. from the local wood elves.
Morgran weighs 150 lbs. and is planning a ten-minute flight into combat. He is going to leave his adventuring pack and spellbook behind on one of the ships but will bring the best armor and weapons he can along with his spell components pouch. Morgran himself weighs about 150 lbs.
Canoe 50 + Morgran 150 + half plate 40 + battleaxe 4 + handaxe 2 + full components pouch 3 = 249 lbs.
Notice that Morgran can cast wizard spells in half plate because he has medium armor proficiency as a racial trait for being a mountain dwarf and can use a battleaxe. He is not concerned with ranged weapons because his spells cantrips include ranged attack capabilities.
1000 lbs. – 249 lbs. current total weight = 751 lbs. additional passenger/cargo limit
This additional passenger/cargo limit will allow Morgran to add 3-4 companions to his flying battle canoe depending on what they’re carrying. While not particularly fast, the flying battle canoe is relatively agile. Morgran can take his craft to skim over the water or fly high above enemy missile fire. He can hug the hull of an enemy ship right below the gunports. He can fly above the deck to rain down missile attacks or fly up to the crow’s nest to take out an enemy sniper.
If Morgran is higher than 9th level and has additional 5th level spell slots, he can, since this a plan battle, load up on Telekinesis spells and refuel his flying battle canoe every ten minutes. Obviously, if Morgran is lucky enough to get his hands on a Ring of Telekinesis, his flying battle canoe has an unlimited flight time.
If this were not a battle but a humanitarian or rather, dwarfitiarian, mission, Morgran would discard most of his armor and equipment, because people are more important than things, and would mainly count only the canoe and himself and probably his components pouch.
Canoe 50 + Morgran 150 + full components pouch 3 = 203
1000 – 203 = 797 additional passenger/cargo limit
This can accommodate an additional 4-5 adult refugees and/or wounded for evacuation or as many 8 children.
2: Cheating at Dice (utility)
Can I cheat at dice with telekinesis?
As a DM, I would say, yes. However, to manipulate the dice with proper timing without the observers knowing that you are cheating requires considerable skill. I would have the observers roll a Perception check modified by the caster’s spellcasting ability combined with any Sleight of Hand and/or Gaming proficiency.
3: Periscope/Arcane Eye (utility)
If your party doesn’t have Arcane Eye available, just take a mirror and move it in a way that you can see around corners. If you are underwater and have Water Breathing spell, you can use your levitating mirror as a periscope
4: Knock and Arcane Lock (utility)
If you’re missing a Knock Spell, depending on how complicated the lock is, you should be able to manipulate the lock with Telekinesis Spell.
Missing Arcane Lock Spell? You can use Telekinesis Spell to create barricades and doors with far heavier objects than your caster could probably lift with their natural Strength.
5: Steam Shovel/Bulldozer (utility)
If you have a lenient DM, you could argue that a clump of earth/rocks is a single object. If not, you would need to create an over-sized makeshift shovel: large shield or basin, rowboat, a titan’s oar, etc.
Provided that you are working with sand, mud, or soft earth, take your oversized shovel and start scooping.
A lenient DM might even allow you to use Tenser’s Floating Disc Spell as a makeshift shovel. Certainly, Wall of Iron, Wall of Stone, or even Wall of Ice should work.
Obviously, if you are dealing with rock or solid earth, you will have to solve that problem as well.
If you have Rock to Mud Spell, problem solved.
If not, you will need to create an over-sized makeshift pick-axe and/or sledgehammer.
Once you have your up-to-1000 lbs. tool, start banging away!
6: Lever and Block and Tackle (utility)
With something as basic as a tree trunk, you can create a lever to increase the load capacity of your Telekinesis spell by magnifying its force. With even better tools, you can create better levers, block-and-tackles, and other simple machines for increasing the force capability of your Telekinesis Spell.
7: Building (utility)
One of the running themes in this section is using existing tools in conjunction with Telekinesis to build things, including better tools for building even more things. With the capacity to move loads of up to 1000 feet in any direction, you can pretty much build any structure or tool you want.
You, of course, need some method of joining the pieces of your creation together. There are plenty of spells available for such a function and when those are not available, there’s always duct tape!
8: Mage Hand (utility)
To use your 5th level Telekinesis Spell as an alternate for a cantrip that’s available for every bard, sorcerer, warlock, and wizard has got to be an act of pathetic desperation. But you know what they say…
Better to have and not need it than to need it and not have it.
9: Makeshift Animate Dead (utility)
Unless your party is plagued by an annoying lawful good paladin, you’ve probably made creative of your captives at some point or another.
Who hasn’t taken a surviving kobold, goblin, or orc, and had the hostile humanoid gagged and bound except for the legs? You all know perfectly well why the legs were unbound. So, we could march out the unfortunate captive in front of the party at the end of a 20-30-foot line, thereby prematurely triggering most traps and/or ambushes awaiting the party much to the DM’s chagrin.
“But, David! We killed the orcs, so we have no living captives. What are we to do?”
Yes. You can use Telekinesis to create a zombie, the discount version.
Of course, your corpse won’t be able to fight. It certainly won’t be to walk normally because moving its legs would require you to move at least two objects, not one. What you can do, however, is make the corpse bounce around on the floor like a marionette and go forward. This should spring most traps and for less intelligent enemies, ambushes as well.
10: Naval Warfare (combat)
In addition to Morgran’s Flying Battle Canoe, Telekinesis Spell could be used to attack enemy ships by simply manipulating their controls: rudder, helm (wheel), sailing rigging, etc.
If these enemy ships are travelling in relatively close formation, you can make them crash into each other provided that they are within range of your spell.
11: Anti-Aircraft (combat)
When dealing with enemy flying craft, you can them in a way similar to that you would for using Telekinesis Spell to attack ships.
When dealing with flying creatures, you can use Telekinesis Spell to:
- Make the creatures dump their riders
- Make the creatures crash into other creatures if flying in a tight formation
- Do something to their wings
12: Bombing (combat)
Can I drop bombs with telekinesis?
Yes, but with limited accuracy. You can pick up any object up to 1,000 lbs. lift it up 60 feet in the air, send it forward up to 60 feet, and drop it. That action would require 4 turns of concentration. (Note that if you go an equal distance up and forward you are creating an equilateral triangle and your range is the hypotenuse of that triangle.
Because the hypotenuse is equilateral, you have exceeded the maximum distance because it is the same as the distances you have moved up and forward, 60 feet.) Of course, such a bombing would work very well against structures and opponents that are somehow distracted, like a shield phalanx defending against a volley of arrows. Any undistracted opponents would of course notice a 1,000 lbs. object that was taking 4 turns to fly through the air and get to them.
If you want to hit multiple targets with smaller bombs, you will need a container.
- Take a container that won’t be too heavy and fill it with your ammunition: rocks, darts, Greek fire, lit flasks of oil, live scorpions, etc.
- Use your Telekinesis Spell to fly over enemies.
- Tilt your container at an angle and dump contents on enemies.
- Return container to your battle-station to reload.
13: Catapult/Sling Shot (combat)
- Find a flexible tree, like a palm tree
- Use your Telekinesis Spell to place your heavy ammunition against the upper area of the tree
- Push your heavy ammunition against the upper and bend the trunk backwards to create tension
- Release and watch your ammunition fly
Congratulations! You have a catapult!
Now take two trees and a hammock and you will have an oversized slingshot.
14: Artillery Shield (combat)
Ballista shoots a huge bolt at your character? Telekinesis.
Catapult flings a boulder at your party? Telekinesis, if the boulder weighs less than 1000 lbs.
A guerilla fighter travels across continuums and targets your party with an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade NOT RPG as in role-playing game)? Telekinesis.
15: Drop of Death (combat)
Can I drop people to their death with telekinesis?
Yes. You can move your victim in any direction, including up, at a speed of 30 feet per turn within range, 60 feet. That means that you can take 2 turns to lift an opponent up 60 feet and drop them to take 6-36 points of falling damage. Of course, if you can find a nearby cliff…
16: Force-Choke (combat)
Star Wars fans know that Darth Vader and other Sith-ilk can use their knowledge of the force to have telekinetic powers, including the force choke. This begs the 5e question…
Can I use force-choke with telekinesis?
5e D&D Telekinesis allows the caster to move objects up to 1,000 lbs. in any direction at 30 feet per turn in any direction for up to ten minutes, regardless of the caster’s physical strength.
Let’s put this in perspective. There are humans in the real world that can deadlift 1000 lbs. off the floor, but they represent less than 1% of humans walking the planet. My guess is that among the 1% or less that can deadlift 1000 lbs., there is probably nobody that can move pick up and carry 1,000 lbs. at 30 feet per turn/5 feet per second for 10 minutes/about 1 kilometer without a break. There is certainly no human in the real world that can levitate 3,000 feet upwards while carrying 1,000 lbs.
Therefore. It is safe to say that Telekinesis gives the caster superhuman strength or at least superhuman telekinetic strength. But, what about the precision required to close the carotid arteries on an opponent’s neck to cut off the flow of blood to the brain?
As per PHB p. 281, the caster “can exert fine motor control… such as pouring the contents from a vial”. A vial is smaller than a human neck, so it takes more motor skill to grab and hold a vial.
Therefore, Telekinesis Spell gives the caster the strength and the motor skill needed to choke most people to death. As DM, I would, however, give the victim a chance to use their Strength ability modifier a chance to resist and give added bonuses to wrestlers and monks. Obviously, the caster’s casting ability modifier could be used to cancel out this Strength modifier.
Of course, if your character wants to be a real sadist, there are other parts of the anatomy that your character can choose to squeeze…
If you’re in a really bad mood, you can build your own makeshift gallows or simply drown the offender by holding their face down in water.
Unlike Sith Lord Darth Vader, what you can’t do, is use your 5th level Telekinesis Spell at a range of several light-years to force-choke an annoying admiral to death via Skype from some other section of the galaxy. Now that’s power!
Question: Can I multi-task with telekinesis?
Answer: Yes. Telekinesis is a spell that requires concentration, but there are many tasks that can be performed while concentrating, including moving and fighting. Furthermore, casters can also other cast spells while using Telekinesis, provided that the spells do not require concentration. Example:
Morgran the dwarvish wizard gets particularly tired of fighting a troublesome troll. He casts Telekinesis and suspends the 500 lbs. troll in the air. For his next turn, he decides to bake the helpless troll with a Fireball Spell, which is instantaneous and doesn’t require concentration. All perfectly legal.
Question: Can Telekinesis Spell work underwater?
Answer: That depends on how well you can speak and make sounds underwater. If the caster is a sahaugin or an aquatic elf, why not? They are used to making sounds underwater in the same way that whales and dolphins are.
Landlovers, however, can make some type of verbal sounds underwater but that is just not good enough.
RAW, regarding verbal components for spells, PHB p. 203,
“the source of the spell’s power; rather, the particular combination of sounds, with specific pitch and resonance, sets the threads of magic in motion.”
That sounds like pretty precise soundwork to me. Such precision, when underwater, can only be done by beings living underwater. As a DM, I would allow the use of verbal component spells like Telekinesis in conjunction with a Water Breathing Spell, but some of my less lenient colleagues might not. After all, “specific pitch and resonance” may be hard to achieve when surrounded by water, even if your breathing hasn’t been interrupted.
Question: Do I need to be able to see to cast Telekinesis Spell?
Answer: Yes. RAW, PHB p. 280,
“you can exert your will upon one creature or object that you can see”
Question: Can I create a shield against missiles with telekinesis?
Answer: Sort of. You can use Telekinesis Spell itself to create a shield against a missile but not against multiple missiles. RAW p. 280, “you can exert your will upon one creature or object”. One missile equals one object. The good news, however, is that with the ability to move 1,000 lbs. at 30 feet per turn you can stop a pretty powerful missile.
What can do is use telekinesis to create and manipulate a makeshift shield, like a large table, a dead ogre, or even a living ogre, that can protect against multiple missiles.
Question: Can I disarm weapons with telekinesis?
Answer: Yes. Provided you win a skills contest with your casting ability vs. your opponent’s Strength. You cannot disarm, however, by using a Ring of Telekinesis.
Question: Can I punch with Telekinesis?
Answer: No. Telekinesis gives you a telekinetic grip, not a telekinetic punch, and certainly no martial arts skill.
Also, an average person’s punch moves at 15 miles per hour. There are 5280 feet in a mile.
15 x 5280 = 79,200 feet/hour
There are, of course, 60 minutes in an hour, 10 combat turns in a minute, and, therefore, 600 turns per hour.
79,200 /600 = 132 feet per combat turn.
Since Telekinesis Spell allows the caster to move objects both light and heavy at 30 feet/turn, even if the caster could transform their telekinetic grip into some type of palm strike, it would move at a speed of 1/5 the average human punch and not do significant damage.
Telekinesis is the ideal multi-purpose high-level utility spell. For sorcerers, it’s nice to have. For wizards, it’s a must-have.
That’s because a wizard’s job is to be the Swiss army knife of the party. Whatever problem the party faces, the wizard has just the right tool somewhere in their bag of tricks. Because the range of possible problems is wide and complicated, a wizard cannot be expected to have one spell that is tailor-made for each particular problem.
With the number of spells before each long rest in limited supply, spells that have multiple applications are the best choice. With at least fifteen multiple applications, Telekinesis Spell is an excellent multi-purpose tool.